The electronic book is a concept almost as old as, well, the computer. But, perhaps surprisingly, this idea has yet to start smoking, let alone catch fire. What the market really needs is a well-worked electronic book reader. One that's unobtrusive, easy to use, effective and affordably priced. Irex's Iliad Reader doesn't score highly in all of those categories, but it does enough to suggest that, many years from now, devices like this could be the future of publishing.

Not much larger than a typical paperback book (and a good deal thinner and lighter), the Iliad Reader feels good to the touch. You probably wouldn't want to use the Iliad Reader one-handed for long periods, but it's no less manageable than a book - and considerably more convenient than a newspaper. The mono screen is non-reflective and, even in bright sunlight can be read comfortably for long periods. The Iliad Reader feels robust, although it probably should come with a protective casing as standard - we wouldn't want to throw it carelessly into a briefcase too many times. Battery life is long and should last for 12-15 hours, and the ability to store over 100 paperback books is a real asset.

The Iliad Reader gives a choice of font sizes, so you can find a way of reading that suits your eyes, and you can even use the stylus to write notes onto the Iliad Reader. Technology can sometimes get in the way of reading, but the Iliad Reader keeps it as simple as possible. A long flipbar is built into the left of the Iliad Reader's screen, and you flick it to the left to go forwards by a page, and to the right to go back - you can reverse these from the settings if they feel unnatural. It does take a second to change from one page to another, but generally the system works pretty well.

However, while it's easy to use the Iliad Reader while reading e-books, you may trip up when using some of its more complex features. The main reason for this is that the Iliad Reader's instructions are mostly electronic - no printed manual is provided. We appreciate that the Iliad Reader is supposed to be replacing the physical book, but it's rather hard to follow the instructions when they disappear every time you bring up whichever menu or option it is that you're trying to master.

This is a shame, since it's through grasping the more complex concepts of the Iliad Reader that it really comes into its own, and tasks such as downloading extra books (using services like Mobipocket) and newspapers are far more difficult than they really ought to be.

Iliad Reader: Specs

  • 8.1in Electronic Paper Display
  • 768x1,024
  • 400MHz Processor
  • 64MB RAM
  • Touch sensor input
  • rechargeable battery
  • Slots for CF/MMC
  • 802.11g Wi-Fi
  • Supports XHTML, TXT and PDF
  • 155x16x216mm
  • 389g
  • 8.1in Electronic Paper Display
  • 768x1,024
  • 400MHz Processor
  • 64MB RAM
  • Touch sensor input
  • rechargeable battery
  • Slots for CF/MMC
  • 802.11g Wi-Fi
  • Supports XHTML, TXT and PDF
  • 155x16x216mm
  • 389g

OUR VERDICT

With better instructions, the Iliad Reader would be a very nice little device. But the £433 price tag is steep. More books and newspapers are becoming available online all the time, and we can see a time in the near future when the likes of the Iliad Reader are everyday purchases. But that time isn't just yet and, when it does come, these devices will need to be considerably cheaper. In the meantime, the Iliad Reader provides a very impressive blueprint.

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